By Gary Graham – That Baja Guy
I must confess that Baja beaches were what attracted me from the very beginning. When I first drove the entire length of Baja on Mex 1, and camped and fished various beaches, I never considered fishing from a boat.
Admittedly, the fishing tackle in those early days was not designed for targeting larger fish. The choices at that time were fishing with fresh bait or with a limited number of artificial lures such as Scampi’s, a forerunner to the vast number of silicon-tailed lures available today, or metal shaped jigs and finishes that can be found at tackle shops dotting Baja from Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas now.
Also, worth noting most shops have an extensive array of tackle explicitly designed for the beaches. Stephen Jansen of Jansen Inshore Tackle in Cabo San Lucas also offers his own line of custom made “Cabo Killers” in a variety of designs and colors.
Admittedly, what were small villages then have grown over the years. However, most still have some deserted beaches only a few miles away from the populated areas.
Regardless of your fishing style, spin, fly, or baitcasting, include your favorite beach stick in your rod tube. Fishing from the beach is the ultimate “DIY,” allowing you to figure it out on your own. The results can be spectacular if you are willing to spend the time.
Fishing Baja beaches is like fishing any other venue; it is all about being in the right place at the right time. Standing in one spot and casting until your arm is sore is not going to get it. Keep moving and look for the same signs as you would from a boat … watch for birds or bait being pushed by predator fish. Often you can color spot fish swimming well within casting range. Small chrome spoons, surface poppers, swimbait, or plastics all work; select what has worked at other spots.
The beach species’ list is impressive: roosterfish, jack crevalle, yellowtail, pompano, pargo, grouper, ladyfish, sierra, corvina, snapper, etc. If you are incredibly lucky, you may even land a dorado or a tuna. The beach is always full of surprises, and the fish can range from small to trophy-sized!
Locals seem to prefer bait, while visitors tend to use lures. It is not unusual for a BIG rooster to eat a hooked ladyfish before you can land it. After that happens, you may think pinning that lady back on a hook and casting it out isn’t a bad idea.
There isn’t a wrong time to fish the beach – early morning before breakfast, fish often feed actively in low-light conditions. Mid-day, the sun climbs higher in the sky, and it’s easier to spot free-swimming fish. Balled-up bait schools are easily spotted then, and again in the late afternoon and early evening during low light conditions.
Like any fisherman worth his salt, you need to put in your time. I often see an angler go out on the beach and within an hour, head back to the pool or bar in disgust. Think about it. As great as the fishing can be in the Sea of Cortez, it usually takes more than an hour to figure it out.
According to Wesley Brough, “Snapper are my favorite fish to catch, and this was my PERSONAL BEST!!”
Brough was standing on a rock, 20-feet from the water, and hadn’t had a bite all morning. He had only brought 80-pound J-Fluoro leader, much lighter than the 150-pound test he preferred.
He had swapped the split rings and hooks on a 9” Savage Gear Mack Stick for BKK Raptor-Z trebles, he threw it into the water and worked it with a slow-twitch to the edge of the foam line by the rocks and paused. At which time, a giant snapper ambushed the lure in about five feet of water!
He didn’t know how big the beast was, but when Brough set the hook and pulled back hard, the fish didn’t budge, and then – it took off FAST and HARD, ripping line off as it headed toward a submerged rock pile. Brough used all of his tricks to keep it from breaking off on the rocks – and knowing the leader was light, he was careful not to put too much pressure on the line.
Knowing he had to guide it through the rocks, he realized the fish had to be good and tired so, Brough waited for the right wave to help push the fish up over the rocks. When he finally saw the beast out of the water, he was astonished at its SIZE!! From Brough’s position high on the rock, he could see a big set of waves coming in, and he knew one more good wave could push the fish up a little further over the rocks. When it did, Brough pulled and, snap, the leader broke right at the lure!
Throwing down his rod, he flew off that rock, managing to grab hold of the snapper before the next big wave could wash it out! At this point, Wesley Brough’s whole body was trembling and shaking with adrenaline, but he had successfully brought in his 61.5-pound snapper!!!
In The Angler’s Guide to Trailer-Boating Baja, Zack Thomas observed the joy of being on your own boat and having complete control of what you do, but I say a Baja beach is the next best thing! It allows you to be the Captain, mate, and, of course, angler using your acquired skills to land quality fish and have fun without depending on another person or boat.
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With more than five decades of fishing experience – from light tackle and fly to offshore billfish – Gary Graham has experienced all aspects of fishing in the Southern California and Baja waters. His observations of species behavior, tackle and techniques are always from his unique perspective, earning him the respect of his peers as well as anglers who eagerly follow his Baja reports and features.
Gary maintained a home at East Cape in Baja Sur for more than 18 years and still spends nearly half of each year exploring the entire peninsula in his self-contained Roadtrek van. He observes everything Baja, from the mysteries of a tide pool on a deserted Baja beach filled with tiny sea creatures to the largest billfish in the sea.